When you agreed (if you agreed) to become someone’s executor, I don’t know if everyone is really ready for the work that’s required of you. If you have some money, there’s usually a trust company who will happily charge you a fee to help you through the process. If the estate is large or complicated, I recommend looking at these services because as executor you have now taken on legal responsibility to ensure the will is executed and not to scare anyone, if it’s found that not everything has been done properly the estate and government CAN (not would) legally seek compensation.
The Ontario government has a pretty good website to help you to deal with the situation: http://www.ontario.ca/government/what-do-when-someone-dies
So first you need to determine if the person has died intestate which is the legal term for someone who died without a will. If that’s the case the government will seek out an executor (most likely a close relative) and ask them if they want to be executor and if the answer is yes, the estate will be disposed of and distributed according to a government formula. Usually it works like this (I have listed Ontario law, but most other provinces follow something similar):
- If have spouse and no children (issue – don’t have to be legitimate) – everything to spouse
- If spouse and issue AND estate less than 200K – everything to spouse
- If spouse and One issue AND estate greater than 200K – first 200K to spouse and remainder 50/50 to spouse and issue
- If spouse and multiple issues AND estate greater than 200K – first 200K to spouse remainder 2/3 equally divided among children and 1/3 to spouse
- No spouse and no issue – parents first and if no parents then equal among siblings and if no siblings then nieces and nephews and if no close relative then next of Kin and there’s a whole table to see who’s down the line.
The government will be happy to deal with the estate for you (for a fee with set rates).
Say you are an executor for someone who died testate (have a will) then you as the legal representative is there to ensure the will gets executed the way the deceased intended.
But before you get happy handing out money, you need to ensure the following are done:
- Get a death certificate and the will (originals) – this will be your ID as you act as executor.
- Determine if the estate needs to be probated. The probate will affirm your position as an executor but it is not legally required and often it’s avoided to save some money. In Ontario the probate fee is approx 1.5%. General rule of thumb is that if the estate is simple (cash, RRSP) and the amount are small, usually around 50-100K you maybe able to get away with out filing probate. If that’s not the case then probate will be required before you will be able to sell property or take money out of bank accounts etc from financial institutions. If probate is required you will have to head to court and fill appropriate paperwork and pay the fee. Again fee structure vari province to province so look up your local rules.